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March 22, 2011

TV on DVD Review: 30 for 30: Jordan Rides the Bus (2010)

In mid-August 1993, the city of Chicago fell into sadness. It was an empathetic sadness. I remember it very well. I was just about to enter my senior year at Lane Tech High School. The news that Michael Jordan's father had been murdered struck like a bolt of lightning. Here was an untouchable hero, a god in the sports world, shaken to the core. His world was destroyed, and the entire city just wanted to hug him and tell him that it would all be okay. Less than two months later, the greatest player that ever graced a basketball court announced that he would retire immediately.

Buy 30 for 30: Jordan Rides the Bus on DVD

Soon after his retirement, Jordan decided that he wanted to play baseball. He did in his youth. It was always his first love, and it was his dad's. He wanted to do this for his dad, and he wanted a new challenge. I understand what losing someone close does to you, especially in your early thirties. It can throw you into a strange panic about life. I've been there, and I think that's where Jordan was. I couldn't see it when I was in my teens, but I completely understand it now. Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of both the Bulls and the White Sox, gave Jordan a tryout and signed him to a contract. Many saw it as a publicity stunt, but I see it as a friend doing a friend a favor. For everything that Jordan did for Reinsdorf and the Bulls, and even the city of Chicago, Jordan deserved this chance.

I remember the craziness surrounding it all. Jordan was in a new element. The Bulls were heading toward a championship without him. The sports world was knocked on its ass. For the first time in his professional sports history, Michael Jordan was not the star. He was knocked back into AA ball and played for the Birmingham Barons. His hitting was atrocious. His fielding needed help. As I watched the documentary, I learned something that was really not focused on. Jordan spent endless hours working on his hitting and his strategy. He improved his batting average by 50 points in one short season. He started hitting home runs. He was becoming a good baseball player.

Jordan felt brand new. He was learning again. He had a new challenge. He wasn't on a pedestal anymore. He was the supporting player to the rest of the cast. He was enjoying it all. The sports media didn't care. They didn't want Jordan in a baseball uniform. I still don't understand why. 1994 was the only season Jordan played. MLB went on strike before the season ended, and the irony here is that the White Sox were favorites to take home the title. Jordan was asked to cross the picket line, and he couldn't do it. He knew it was time to return to the Bulls.

The Bulls didn't win a title without Jordan. They were one bad foul call away from reaching the finals. Many believe that NBA commissioner David Stern had something to do with the Bulls losing in order to lure Jordan back to the NBA. I am one of those people. I think we all know that if the Bulls won without Jordan, he probably wouldn't have returned. I thought about that while I watched this film. What if the Pippen led Bulls won? What if there was no baseball strike? Reinsdorf believed that Jordan would have made the majors. So do I.

Watching this brought me back to my youth and the days of Chicago sports championships. I remember walking the streets with other fans after each win. Those were great moments. Jordan came back to win three more NBA championships with the Bulls, then he retired, then he played for the Wizards after working in their front offices, then he retired, and now he owns the Charlotte Bobcats. That's not a bad trajectory for the guy, but baseball is now far in his past. Still, I wonder what could have been. We'll never know, but it's fun to think about.

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